October can be a very busy month, full of celebrations to recognize community sectors and to create awareness around issues impacting our society. Hispanic Heritage Month, Cyber Security Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month are all observed in October, as well as LGBTQ+ History Month.
Florida Polytechnic University’s Diversity Club has taken an active role to mark LGBTQ+ History Month with events throughout October, as a way to provide support and encourage acceptance of students who are lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, queer, plus other groups like asexual and intersex, among others.
“It’s important to give representation to those students who are part of the LGBTQ+ community at Florida Poly and to let them know they are not alone,” said Gabrielle Simms, president of the University’s Diversity Club. “We want to tell them ‘hey, we see you’ and offer them ways in which they can get involved and feel free to express themselves.”
Florida Poly’s Diversity Club organized the first Pride Student Union meeting in collaboration with the Office of Student Development, to be held today, Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day. Students will hear about the services the University provides to those who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. There will also be a discussion regarding the creation of an official Pride Student Union on campus. The meeting will be at the Student Development Center at 6:30 p.m. Afterwards, the gathering will turn into a dance-a-thon from 7 to 10 p.m.
Another event coordinated by the Diversity Club is the first drag pageant on campus. Students will have the opportunity to strut, perform and show off their fashion in outfits of the opposite sex. The event will take place on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 8:30 p.m. in the Commons of the Innovation, Science, and Technology (IST) Building.
“The concept of drag started as comedy and entertainment, but now it has evolved to be an art form. The point of this pageant is to recognize that art and just to have fun all together,” said Simms, a junior from The Bahamas majoring in electrical engineering.
Other activities held to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month at Florida Poly include the Only Love Photo Campaign, which enabled students to show their support for this community by taking a picture and sharing it on Oct. 3.
“We ended up with more than 100 photos. It was a great event,” said Simms.
The Office of Student Development organized other events as well, including a speaking session with PFLAG (Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays) of Polk County. Leaders of the organization were available at the IST Building on Oct. 10, to answer questions and provide guidance to students who needed it.
“We believe we have the responsibility as a university to provide our students with an open and safe environment where they can express themselves freely,” said Tonya Chestnut, director of student development at Florida Poly.
“We want them to feel comfortable being who they are.”